With the rise of Donald Trump as a political phenomenon, folks on the so-called alternative right (many of whom support Trump’s candidacy) are receiving more and more attention. The GOP establishment, meanwhile, is scrambling to distance itself from Trump and his followers. Take, for example, the latest salvo by the National Review. The magazine, founded by the late William F. Buckley, Jr., devoted an entire publication to denouncing the real estate mogul. In all, 22 authors including Thomas Sowell, William Kristol, and Erick Erickson wrote essays critical of the leading Republican candidate.
In addition, a joint statement from the magazine’s editors leveled a series of half-hearted and hypocritical critiques at Trump. His political opinions have “wobbled all over the lot.” He once “supported abortion, gun control, single-payer health care à la Canada, and punitive taxes on the wealthy.” The National Review crew want a wall along the southern border, but Trump’s threat to make Mexico foot the bill is “silly bluster.” They say his deportation plan is “beyond the capacity of the federal government” but call the idea of letting those deported come back legally “a poorly disguised amnesty.” Even more amusing is calling Trump’s proposal of killing the families of suspected terrorists a “war crime.” It undoubtedly is one, but the GOP is the party that gleefully promoted torture, indefinite detention, and acquiesced to President Obama’s use of drone warfare.
Now, NRO columnist David French wrote an article taking aim at Trump’s Alt-Right supporters and cluelessly blaming their rise to prominence on (what else?) the left. Because if the left didn’t talk about racial justice so often there wouldn’t be white supremacists. Makes sense, right?
Among the more amusing responses to National Review’s “Against Trump” editorial effort was the claim that Dr. Frankenstein was turning on its monster. In other words, we at National Review created the allegedly racist, xenophobic conditions necessary for Donald Trump’s rise.
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I have two responses. First — and most obvious — it’s simply false to ascribe widespread conservative concern over immigration to “white identity politics.” Does the Left really believe that National Review or its readers would be indifferent to the national-security concerns of anti-American terrorists attempting to infiltrate the ranks of, say, Latvian or Norwegian immigrants? Would our economic concerns be any less valid if large numbers of low-skilled Greek immigrants were depressing blue-collar wages and straining social services?
Given the history of William F. Buckley, Jr. and the National Review, that is entirely possible. It’s contributors included such white nationalist and xenophobic luminaries as Ann Coulter, Samuel T. Francis, Peter Brimelow, Pat Buchanan, Charles Murray, Richard Lynn, and even Jared Taylor. I don’t believe the National Review can plausibly feign outrage at being called out on its immigrant-bashing. French calls members of the Alt-Right a group of “wanna-be fascists” who live in their parents’ basements:
At the same time, however, a small group of online trolls have indeed gathered under Trump’s banner. Calling themselves the “alt-right,” they’re a motley group of white nationalists and wanna-be fascists. They’ve become adept at flooding Twitter feeds and comments boards, giving the illusion of large-scale online strength. While it’s difficult to determine how many actual American voters belong to the alt-right (versus the number who are busy tweeting from their mom’s basement in Austria), they do exist, and they’ve succeeded in elbowing their way into the national conversation.
And then he proceeds to blame liberals for these far-right ideologues:
If anyone besides the members of the alt-right is responsible for the latest iteration of whiteness-obsessed fanaticism, is it the conservative movement that is consistently calling for a colorblind politics and culture — echoing Martin Luther King’s call to look to the content of one’s character over the color of one’s skin? Or is it the progressive movement that pushes explicitly race-based organizations such as La Raza or Black Lives Matter while specifically scorning whites, Western civilization, and so-called white privilege?
Here French runs into a serious problem. To call the conservative movement “colorblind” is to ignore their history of dog whistle politics and courting overt racists. The movement that spawned Richard Nixon, Lee Atwater, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush is hardly “colorblind.” And then there’s conservatives’ support for racial profiling, eradication of the social safety net, the War on Drugs, capital punishment, and voter ID laws — all of which target or disproportionately harm racial minorities. Moreover, French persists with the common distortion that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a conservative who never saw race and would have been appalled by social justice programs aimed at aiding people of color. And his race-baiting over Black Lives Matter and leftists who are “specifically scorning whites” sounds close to something one might find in an Alt-Right article.
The Left has elevated a man — Ta-Nehisi Coates — to the pantheon of public intellectuals whose expressions of contempt for his white fellow citizens are so pervasive that, if the roles were reversed, he’d be relegated to the darkest corners of the hateweb. The Left is imposing race obsession on its presidential candidates to the extent that they’re now afraid even to declare that “all lives matter.” Does the Left really believe that such nonsense will spawn only productive and thoughtful critiques?
French points to absolutely nothing to indicate that Ta-Nehisi Coates expresses “contempt for his white fellow citizens.” Perhaps French was perturbed by Coates’ discussions of the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and modern institutional racism, but that hardly translates to anti-white hatred. And the line about reversing the roles is meaningless — we don’t live in a world where white people were enslaved by blacks for hundreds of years, denied citizenship, murdered by violent hate groups, segregated into ghettos, and made the targets of state violence. Yes, Ta-Nehisi Coates can write articles about reparations without it being hateful. No, it’s not the same if a white man were to write it, since it the entire concept of white rights is reactionary. I get the feeling that if French were around during Martin Luther King’s day, he’d be denouncing him as an anti-white radical.
The Left is fond of saying that “violence begets violence.” It’s a tired trope, but it contains a kernel of truth — people do tend to respond to violence with more violence. But doesn’t racial obsession beget racial obsession? All my life I’ve been part of a conservative movement that has been struggling mightily to move the culture past the politics of race and into a politics of universal human dignity, with each of us created in the image of God. It’s a tall order, made more challenging by the complex interplay of history, culture, and man’s fallen nature, but our task has been made even more difficult by leftist political warfare that empowers and enriches itself by exploiting and perpetuating the historical, cultural, and racial grievances that have plagued our culture (and virtually every culture on the face of the Earth).
This is a gross oversimplification of the politics of race in America. To French, the Black Lives Matter activist who protests police brutality against young black men and women is the same as the neo-Nazi who marches through the streets yelling “White Power!” The two are both “race-obsessed” and, thus, equivalent. In advancing this belief he omits the reason both activists are “race-obsessed” in the first place. The former seeks to stop the senseless murder of blacks in America and is working toward racial equity. The latter wants not just to maintain the status quo but to return to the bygone era of Jim Crow segregation. In doing so he compares apples with oranges and downplays the goal of white supremacists and members of the Alt-Right.
If you want to know who granted legitimacy to the people now calling you a “cuckservative” and a traitor to your race, I suggest you look in the mirror.